New edition of GISWatch: How sustainable are ICTs really?

Download the new edition of GisWatch which covers ICTs and environmental sustainability in 53 countries, six regions and ten expert thematic reports.   This fourth edition questions the assumption that information and communications technologies (ICTs) will automatically be a panacea for climate change while also looking at the potential of ICTs to mitigate and adapt to climate change, as are the roles of international institutions, the global research agenda on ICTs and climate change and “sustainability” as an evolving concept.

As with all editions, GISWatch does not take a reflect a single point of view. Instead there are counterpoints, arguments and implicit or explicit disagreements that show a vibrant and critical arena that has started to receive attention in recent years.


GISWatch 2010 makes an important contribution to both the environmental and the ICT movement as the voice of global civil society – and is aimed at both beginners and experts in the field of ICTs and climate change, e-waste and the use of ICTs for environmental good generally.

The dark side of ICTs  

The ICT Industry:


  • will become a bigger carbon-dioxide emitter in the UK than the airline industry by 2012

  • doubled its consumption of world office paper between 1980 and 1997

  • contributes to the war in the Democratic Republic of Congo by its use of precious metals

  • is creating massive e-waste.

At the same time,  many reports argue that ICTs have a critical role to play in mitigating and adapting to the impact of a phenomenon like climate change.

Peet du Plooy from Trade & Industrial Policy Strategies argues that the use of smart technologies help us to imagine a world where the real potential of renewable energy becomes possible:

Grids that can predict and plan are also a key enabler for adding large amounts of variable renewable energy to the generation mix. Smart grid applications can predict, for example, the supply of wind power for the next day, the next hour or the next minute based on weather models and real-time data.”

This report suggests that the two perspectives – for and against current consumption patterns of ICTs – are not easily reconciled and that while ICTs can be used for climate change mitigation and adaptation, it cannot be “business as usual”.


Who will take the lead?

 What we do know is that our environment is changing, and our use of ICTs is contributing to that change – positively and most certainly negatively.


But where are our other leaders now, asks the report?

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